By Scott Huver, Hollywood.com Staff
It used to be that the guy wearing the glasses in a superhero story was usually the good guy in disguise, the everyday, overlooked, unassuming alter ego of the do-gooder, secretly hidden among the normal people he's protecting.
Then came Heroes and HRG. And all of a sudden the as-yet-still-fully-unnamed, bespectacled character with the seemingly banal suburban home life was revealed to be one of the most dangerous and insidious men on the planet. But Mr. Bennett's palpable love for his teen daughter Claire has also rendered him more complex than the average TV bad guy and, as the season's unfolded, decidedly more unpredictable, joining the battle to save the world, but most importantly to save the cheerleader.
"I don't think of him as a bad guy. I think of him as a guy who has decided to take on a job and a career which is morally gray at best," Jack Coleman told Hollywood.com during a sit-down chat in his trailer during a break in filming. "I think that to some extent he has been serving a larger good and to some extent he's been really a big part of the problem. I think that is kind of his arc in this first season: a very, very hard-earned self-awareness that is starting to dawn on him."
Hollywood.com: When you first heard about your character, how was he described?
Jack Coleman: It was only described in the script and I think it mentioned a Max Von Sydow type from Three Days of the Condor. And the thing that Tim [Kring] wrote in the character description which I found actually very helpful was that he was an everyman, but unknowable. So that kind of gave me a clue into how he could sort of seem like an approachable and regular fellow, but other than the very surface layer you're not going to get anything from him.
HW: What was your reaction when the show took off the way that it did?
JC: It was amazing. The more that you're in this business the more you realize how incredibly difficult it is to have a hit, to make a hit happen. And so when we saw how good the numbers were with the pilot and then they continued to get better rather than taper off, it was pretty heady stuff. Because it's really, really hard and you have no idea how a show is going to be received, and there were a lot of shows that had a lot more hype than we did who were falling by the wayside early on, early casualties - and good shows too. You also know that in a serialized marketplace only so many [shows] are going to survive because it requires so much of an investment from audience that you can't expect. It's just too much to ask.
HW: What do you think it was about Heroes that clicked with the audience?
JC: Ultimately I think that it comes down to the sort of epic storytelling with these characters who have super-abilities - which I don't like to call "comic book." I think that's just too much of a cop-out and I don't think this is exactly what that is - but I think of it more as epic storytelling, but with really specific, realistic human consequences. I mean, It's not about what the costume is going to be and how we get together and fight. It's not "Zap!" and "Pow!" It's about what it might be like to wake up and be levitating, or you have these horrible headaches and you're hearing someone's thoughts, and I think that what Tim set up so well is that the abilities are really more like afflictions. Then maybe once you learn how to harness them then it can be amazing, but it's more about how they separate you and isolate you from your world rather than necessarily enhance your world. So I just think these are everyday people dealing with superhuman abilities, and I don't think it's ever been played this way before. I think that it's really intriguing. Also, the show is just visually amazing to look at, what these guys have done with the cinematography and the art direction and everything. It just looks like a feature.
HW: HRG has straddled the line between seemingly good and seemingly evil intentions, always softened by his relationship with Claire. Did you talk about that relationship with Tim, the father/daughter relationship, and establish ahead of time that he really does love her?
JC: It was something that I responded to immediately. I thought it was great. Here you have a guy who is ostensibly the villain, he's ostensibly evil, and yet has a genuinely loving and wonderful relationship with his daughter. Of course, layered on top of that is the fact that everything they said to each other was a lie, except "I love you." That's the only thing that they said that was truthful to each other because she was always withholding and he was always withholding, or just outright lying, but I think that's what made the character so interesting from the beginning. The guy is obviously, at the very least, morally compromised, but he has this wonderful and loving relationship with his daughter. But that layer which they wrote in, which is sort of a layer of complexity and dimension has just made it so much more interesting than some mustache-twirling villain. You imagine any evil character or villain from any story, going home and having this kind of loving relationship at home and it just makes them so much more interesting - and confusing to the audience too, but you realize that human beings are capable of doing horrible things and still loving their children.
HW: How much do you enjoy playing those dark and heavy moments then immediately flipping it around?
JC: By the far the most fun things and the most interesting things to watch and to do are the ones where there is a little bit of everything going on at once. You might be calling in a marker on someone and then in the same scene packing a lunch for your daughter and kissing her on the head and sending her off to school. It's that kind of almost "banality of evil" that they used to talk about with the Third Reich There is something about him living this suburban life and having the kind of perfect home life and then going out and doing these utterly bizarre things. I think that's what makes the character so interesting. I think that it's brilliant that they developed him that way, that they conceived him as this guy who is capable of these very, very high highs and very low lows.
HW: Were you prepared for the level of interest that the show was going to spark and the level of fan interest there was going to be?
JC: Well, we were talking about this before, and I mean, I think we had some idea that it was coming, but nothing like it's been. This is the kind of show that really inspires intense devotion among it's fans. All you have to do is go to some of these websites. There are the smallest things that are picked up and it's freeze framed and examined and interpreted and sometimes it's just wildly wrong, most of the time. But a lot of the time it's always interesting and to a certain extent I will say that kind of interest can drive storyline. I'm trying to think if I can do this cryptically. I'll just say that the episode that we're shooting right now, a big point of view in the episode was driven by fan paranoia. How people were seeing the show and how they were interpreting what my character was doing to or with these heroes, that very much colored the way the whole show was written.
HW: Do you have any hopes that maybe you'll have a power one day? Would that be fun for you?
JC: I don't care about that, really. In some ways it's a little bit like being Lex Luthor or something. It's the power of knowledge and thinking quickly on your feet because there is something about being humanly vulnerable, but still being able to deal in this world that's kind of fun. I think that there are going to be times, probably soon, where not having a power is going to be a real problem for a mortal like myself. I don't feel the need to have a power as long as I have knowledge.